The filmmaking duo of Trudy Stewart and Janine Windolph have created—together and separately—award-winning documentaries featured at festivals and screenings around the world.
Trudy and Janine first met as students at the University of Regina. They were single mothers with young children. Trudy knew that storytelling through film and video was her calling, and since childhood, Janine’s dream was to work in film and video. They cemented their creative relationship while at working together at the Indigenous Filmmaking festival, mispon.
Committed to illuminating Indigenous issues and inspiring meaningful change, they were statement gatherers for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), collecting stories from residential school survivors and others about the shared colonial legacy of the residential school system.
During their time as TRC statement gatherers, the team heard stories about a residential school—the Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS)—that had operated just outside of Regina from 1891 to 1910. The school site in the city’s northwest corner also contains a cemetery that includes the unmarked graves of about 40 children who attended the school.
Trudy and Janine created the RIIS Media Project to raise awareness about the history of the school and cemetery, and to give voice to those in the community impacted by the school. With financial support from the United Church of Canada and affected First Nations communities, the pair co-directed and co-produced RIIS from Amnesia: Recovering the Lost Legacies, a documentary that explores the shared colonial legacy of the school and cemetery. They also helped establish the RIIS Commemorative Association, seeking heritage status for the site. Their most vocal advocate for heritage designation was a late residential school survivor and Elder at the University of Regina. The site received heritage status from the province in 2017 and from the City of Regina one year earlier. In June of this year, responding to TRC call to action #79, the one-acre grounds housing the cemetery were transferred from the federal government to the RRIS Commemorative Association.
The two ACAA award recipients agree that they could not have accomplished on their own what they have achieved together as independent filmmakers and storytellers. Looking back, they appreciate that the U of R provided a safe space and community where they could grow, minimizing barriers for Indigenous women balancing motherhood with education.
At the time of her passing Trudy was working a “dream job” as film programmer for imagineNATIVE, the largest film and media arts festival in the world. Janine is curator of Community Engagement for the MacKenzie Art Gallery.
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